Choosing the Right GPU for Your Data Center
For decades now when IT professionals were looking to purchase servers and other equipment for their data center, the main component they would look at was the central processing unit (CPU). While all components are important, the CPU has always been the ‘brain’ of the equipment. The more CPUs you had, or the faster they were, the more work a given server could get done. Many data center professionals seem to be stuck in their ways in this regard, even though for many tasks, CPUs are no longer the ideal solution. Thanks to a variety of advancements, today’s graphics processing units (GPU) are much faster and more efficient when it comes to returning fast results on complex calculations.
Breaking Out of Gaming
GPUs have been around since the 1990’s when NVIDIA came to the market with the G80 processor. They were designed to work alongside CPUs to take on the weight of graphics heavy processing requirements. At the time, this meant gaming. Both normal PCs and gaming consoles began relying on the fast GPUs to handle the graphics processing, leaving the CPU to focus more on the more standard processing requirements.
Today GPUs are used for far more than just gaming. Anywhere that requires data-intensive workloads will perform better on a GPU than a CPU. Some of the areas where GPUs are most commonly seen today include:
- Autonomous Cars – Autonomous cars are powered largely by GPUs that can quickly analyze the video and sensor information so the vehicle can make ‘decisions’ in a fraction of a second.
- Data Analysis – Working on environmental models, scientific analysis, and other similar areas is ideally suited for GPUs.
- Facial Recognition – Facial recognition software performs far better when run on a GPU than a CPU.
- Robotics – Controlling robotics that need to analyze a job and perform complex actions can be done more efficiently using GPUs.
- Search – Powerful search engines use GPUs to crunch huge amounts of data in fractions of a second to return millions of results to users.
Why are GPUs Faster?
It is something of a misconception to say that GPUs are faster than CPUs as that is not technically true. The two processors simply operate very differently. A standard CPU will have anywhere from 2 to 16 cores on each physical processor (that number will certainly go up over time). GPUs, on the other hand, have thousands of very small cores on each chip.
The larger cores are more powerful, and can handle much bigger and longer lasting calculations, but the smaller cores can perform ‘grid computing’ that is ideal for performing millions of small operations simultaneously. So, when configured properly, the CPU will handle things like booting up a PC, running programs such as Outlook, Word, or Excel, while the GPU is then used to complete any activities that require extremely fast calculations to be done.
Choosing a GPU for Your Data center
So, with this understanding of what GPUs are and how they can be used, it is clear that most data center facilities can really benefit from using them. Any new server that is going to need to do a lot of ‘number crunching’ will not only operate more quickly, but also more efficiently by having a high end GPU available to complete the task.
Today, the industry leader when it comes to GPU is NVIDIA. They were the pioneers into the GPU about 20 years ago, and have continued to set the bar in terms of speed and quality. Adding NVIDIA GPUs to servers of almost any type can help provide incredible performance improvements that would have seemed impossible even just a few years ago.